Chapter 18: - Page 5 of 6

Legerdemain

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

A painful silence followed these words.  That head was talking of priestly intrigues and impostures, and although referring to another age and other creeds, all the friars present were annoyed, possibly because they could see in the general trend of the speech some analogy to the existing situation.  Padre Salvi was in the grip of convulsive shivering; he worked his lips and with bulging eyes followed the gaze of the head as though fascinated.  Beads of sweat began to break out on his emaciated face, but no one noticed this, so deeply absorbed and affected were they.

What was the plot concocted by the priests of your country against you? asked Mr. Leeds.

The head uttered a sorrowful groan, which seemed to come from the bottom of the heart, and the spectators saw its eyes, those fiery eyes, clouded and filled with tears.  Many shuddered and felt their hair rise.  No, that was not an illusion, it was not a trick: the head was the victim and what it told was its own story.

Ay! it moaned, shaking with affliction, I loved a maiden, the daughter of a priest, pure as light, like the freshly opened lotus! The young priest of Abydos also desired her and planned a rebellion, using my name and some papyri that he had secured from my beloved.  The rebellion broke out at the time when Cambyses was returning in rage over the disasters of his unfortunate campaign.  I was accused of being a rebel, was made a prisoner, and having effected my escape was killed in the chase on Lake Moeris.  From out of eternity I saw the imposture triumph.  I saw the priest of Abydos night and day persecuting the maiden, who had taken refuge in a temple of Isis on the island of Philae.  I saw him persecute and harass her, even in the subterranean chambers, I saw him drive her mad with terror and suffering, like a huge bat pursuing a white dove.  Ah, priest, priest of Abydos, I have returned to life to expose your infamy, and after so many years of silence, I name thee murderer, hypocrite, liar!

A dry, hollow laugh accompanied these words, while a choked voice responded, No! Mercy!

It was Padre Salvi, who had been overcome with terror and with arms extended was slipping in collapse to the floor.

What’s the matter with your Reverence? Are you ill? asked Padre Irene.

The heat of the room—

This odor of corpses we’re breathing here—

Murderer, slanderer, hypocrite! repeated the head.  I accuse you—murderer, murderer, murderer!

Again the dry laugh, sepulchral and menacing, resounded, as though that head were so absorbed in contemplation of its wrongs that it did not see the tumult that prevailed in the room.

Learn this Filipino word:

sapín ng baúl